During the past two decades, the number of countries that have enacted Freedom of Information (FOI) laws has increased dramatically. In many respects, FOI laws have become a democratic ‘right of passage’. No FOI, no ‘proper’ democracy.
The promises of FOI regimes are far-reaching: extensive independent access to government-held information will lead to increased transparency, prevention of corruption and maladministration and greater public participation in the political process. But are these promises borne out by the practice of FOI?
This article describes a study that tracked a number of real-life FOI requests in five countries. The project puts forward a prototype for the first International Freedom of Information Index, ranking the five countries of study on how their FOI regimes function in practice.
In conclusion, the paper suggest that the FOI Index should be expanded to cover all 65 plus countries that have implemented FOI laws. It is argued that such an index could play an important role in furthering some of the core properties of liberal democracy: transparency, political accountability and good governance.
Coronel, Sheila (2001) Access to Information in Southeast Asia. Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Darbishire, Helen and Carson, Thomas (2006) Transparency and Silence – a Survey of Access to Information Laws and Practices in 14 Countries. Open Society Institute, 20 November, http://www.access-info.org/.
Davies, Charles and Sigmund, Splichal (2000) Freedom of Information in the Information Age. Iowa State University Press.
Denzin, Norman K and Lincoln, Yvonna S, (ed.) (2003) Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Dunn, Delmer, Uhr, John (1993) ‘Accountability and Responsibility in Modern Democratic Governments’, Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. Washington DC.
Falck, Marie-Louise (2004) ‘E-Mail Reply No of Employees in Swedish Cabinet’, E-mail to author, 5 April.
Hederén, Jan (1988) Journalistiska Arbetsmetoder. Göteborg: Spektra.
Lamble, Stephen (2002) Computer-Assisted Reporting and Freedom of Information. University of Queensland.
Lidberg, Johan (2003) For Your Information – the Impact of Freedom of Information Legislation on Journalism Practice and Content in Western Australia and Sweden. MA. Murdoch University.
Löwenberg, Anders (1992) Undersökande Journalistik. Stockholm: Ordfront.
Miles, Matthew and Huberman, Michael (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis (2nd ed.) London: Sage Publications.
Neuman, Lawrence (2000) Social Research Methods – Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Sydney: Allyn and Bacon.
Olsson, Anders R. (1992) Yttrandefrihet och Tryckfrihet (1st ed.) Stockholm, Sweden: Tiden.
Przeworski, Adam, Stokes, Susan C, Manin, Bernard (ed.) Democracy, Accountability and Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richelson, Jeffery (2003) ‘Holding Back – There Are Many Ways US Government Agencies Twart the Freedom of Information Act’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 59.6: 26-34.
Ricketson, Mathew, Snell, Rick (2002) ‘FOI: Threatened by Governments, Underused by Journalists – Still a Sharp Tool’, in S. Tanners (ed.) Journalism – Investigation and Research (1st ed.) Sydney: Longman.
Rozell, Mark (2002) Executive Privilege: Presidential Power, Secrecy, and Accountability (2nd ed.) Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press.
Sefastsson, Trond (1999) Offentlighetsprincipen i Praktiken. Stockholm Prisma.
Siegal, Arthur (2002) ’Document Destruction Violates the FOIA’, The Michigan Bar Journal 81.3: 14-17.
Snell, Rick (2004) ‘Is There a Role for Comparative Freedom of Information Analysis?: Part 1.’, Freedom of Information Review.113: 57-60.
Svenska Journalistförbundet, SJF (2001) Öppenhetstestet 1997, 20 June, http://www.sjf.se.